Legendary Pink Dots proved themselves undeniably legendary last week at Knitting Factory. Not in need of an opening band to get the crowd pumped, darkly clad fans, of all ages, packed into the Main Space to eagerly await their beloved Dots, who formed twenty-eight years ago in 1980. In the same league as Syd Barrett, with whom he is often compared, Dots vocalist Edward Ka-Spel (also known as Prophet Qa-Spel, Qa’Sepel, Che Banana, and D’Archangel) guided his band’s spacey, goth-folkloric sound to concoct a neo-mythology, lulling the crowd into a hypnotic trance. Wearing a long black tunic, purple scarf, and round sunglasses, Ka-Spel performed like an avant-garde Ozzy Osbourne, uttering ghostly lyrics during moments of eerie calm, and emitting a scream or a whimper during those of wild intensity.
The band itself was furiously alive and entertaining, and together the five-piece created a sort of time warp⎯we were back in the artsy Liquid Sky eighties, or on a spaceship miles away, or inside of a surreal painting or new wave film, or in a cemetery awaking the dead, conducting a séance, or taking part in a Pagan ceremony à la Wickerman. But the show was not a total pre-Hallow’s Eve spookfest; it was also full of light-hearted fun! Niels Van Hoorn, who joined the band in 1988, performed all wind instruments (sax, flute, clarinet, some other gadgets) and was the most dynamic Dot. Wearing a funky diamond-patterned suit, he affixed a light beam onto his saxophone, which brightened as he blew into the instrument. He meandered through the crowd during two songs, aiming his sax at fans, illuminating faces, and getting the girls to seductively sway.
The Dots played for over two hours, performing two encores of older songs, and incorporating songs from the new album, Plutonium Blonde, into their main set. The highlight of the show was the performance of “Torchsong,” the first track on Plutonium, which they played as the last song before the encore. The extended live version of this 7-minute song was all the more mind-blowing; revolving noises, synths, and samples swelled into the small room, overwhelming the senses and divulging a dark psychedelic landscape, Ka-Spel half-whispering sinister lyrics and gesturing like Dr. Caligari. At the merch table, which offered an insanely large selection of CDs (they have released more than 40, not counting solo work), records, t-shirts, pins, and artwork, the Dots signed for free and mingled with fans. What could have been a distant experience fully turned into a friendly gathering, until it was time to button up and catch the subway.
words by Amy Dupcak